Gladhys Elliona : The Real Art Traveler

It was a sunny-calming morning, while Christian and I were sitting nervously at a coffee shop in Cikini, Central Jakarta. We tried to set the exposure of the camera, so it would capture our first interviewee perfectly. After gulping some of my black iced coffee, I saw a girl in a black T-shirt and long artsy skirt, walking through the glass door beside us.

“I really love to drink this kind of coffee lately. Yesterday I ordered the iced one, but this time I picked the hot one and it tastes amazing,” Gladhys explained as she poured out the brown sugar to her latte cup.

I met Gladhys at a writing event in Instagram; called #30HariBercerita (30 days of story-telling). She has a very specific kind of appearance that makes her very easy to be identified, “I often found people saying hi to me, but I don’t even know their name.” Then we both laughed because that was what actually happened when we met in real life for the first time!

I was curious about what kind of high school student Gladhys was back then, “On my high school years, I was nobody. I tried to join student council but it doesn’t fit me well. I always found it so difficult to connect with the other students, so I spent most of my time at the library. I read some interesting magazines such as Provoke! And Hai Magazine, and registered myself to those magazine’s student programs.”

Gladhys wrote the Student Edition Provoke! Magazine (2010) and her School Page Hai Magazine (2010-2013). Gladhys then joined a social project of Global Citizen Corps in 2011, called “Sahabat Seribu Pulau”.
“I spent four years on my high school since I joined AFS and became exchange student in United States for one year.” (the normal amount of time required in Indonesian high school is only three years).
“Oh! And I used to be radio announcer too for few months,” she added joyfully.
Gladhys ̶ who was born in 1994 ̶ is currently learning about psychology in University of Indonesia, and put a lot of her time for acting and writing by joining the theater club of psychology student in her university.
“I believe that I got my passion in acting from my uncle. He is the one whose portrait was painted on Jakarta Art Institute wall, beside the mural of Didi Petet’s portrait. They both were truly best friends back then.”

Gladhys didn’t mention the name of her uncle, and I really want to know which mural that she talks about. So I went to the location the other day, and capture the picture of the mural. I found out that her uncle’s name is Sena A. Utoyo; who was a very famous actor and presenter who made a pantonim group with another senior actor, Didi Petet. The group’s name is “Sena Didi Mime”.

I don’t easily believe in people’s opinion until I experience it by myself. For example; many people tell me that it will be better not to join the student council in my university. But I registered myself into the organization, and found out that I didn’t really fit in there.”

Gladhys also expand her experience in acting by joining an acting class in Komunitas Salihara (an art community in South Jakarta). After had some experience at Salihara, Gladhys then registered herself to be an intern curatorial assistant for the literature division of Komunitas Salihara, and mentored by Ayu Utami.
“It’s such an honor to work with Ayu Utami. When I was still a high schooler, my friend and I really adored her books.”
Ayu Utami is an Indonesian writer and journalism activist. One of her most famous masterpiece is “Saman” (1998), which became really controversial novel that talked about sexuality; which was a very taboo thing to be talked about back then.
“I think Ayu Utami is a very flexible person. Some people may mistake her question as a test, because she has a charisma that makes people respect her so much. But the truth is, she asks a question just because she wants to know the answer. And she’s really professional while working. When she gives you an opinion about your work, it’s a really pure opinion that will help you to make something better.”

“What I really learn from Ayu Utami is, you have to know when to use your heart, and also your mind. It’s important to keep them balanced. I’ve been learning to do that while working, and I’m getting used to it now.”

Gladhys spent the average three days of her week to be in Komunitas Salihara, and some of her days to learn at another acting classes, and to learn at the university. It makes her family wondering about what keeps her busy all this time. “I’ve tried to explained it to my mom. However, it seems like she still finds it hard to understand about what I’m exactly doing.” That point seems so familiar to me since it’s an artist’s main job to make people understand what the artists are actually doing.

We have to be more about specific about what we’re trying to explain. For example, when we talk about Latin American Art, we can mention Capoeira for its example. So people will relate into the topic much easier.”
Although she spends most of her time learning outside the house, she always tries to make time to be at her parents’ home, “I even think that Komunitas Salihara is my first home. I used to sleep there because it was too late for me to come home. My little sister sometime also feels left-out since I always busy doing things that he didn’t really understand. I have to be home at least once in a week. Otherwise, my body will have a health issue.”
Her bravery to go to many places give Gladhys opportunities to meet many other great people such as Putri Ayudya (who was her senior at campus who introduced her to Komunitas Salihara), Rain Chudori, and Joko Anwar.
The third name that I mentioned above is one of the greatest movie directors in Indonesia. Gladhys adores his works since a long time ago. She was really surprised because few weeks ago she got an opportunity to be in a same movie, and same frame with Joko Anwar. It was “Galih dan Ratna” movie by Lucky Kuswandi.

“It’s pretty easy for us to relate to each other since he was also an exchange student of AFS. I can’t help but being awkward when he started the conversation with me. I was really nervous!”

Another special person that she met during the shooting session was Rain Chudori; a young and talented writer who’s just released her famous book, “Monsoon Tiger and Other Stories”. Gladhys told me that they had a very pleasant conversation, and Rain even said, “You seem smart! We should have each other’s number!”

All of those achievements that she got from her very young age shape her to this cheerful, humble, and warm Gladhys. When I asked her what’s the main value that she holds onto, she calmly told me that, “We have to be brave.”
Gladhys admitted that many people flattered her for what she’s been through, and she always told them that, “I’m still not somebody special. Not yet.”
Soon, she’s planning to have an internship in Teater Satu, a theater in Lampung, South Sumatra. “I’ve got all of my family member’s approval to go there, except my Mom’s.” (Smiling)

This girl ̶ who has complete collection of Musiq’s discography ̶ said that after all of the things that she’s been experienced in this creative industry, she found out that her passion in art is not about the commercial part, it’s more about something spiritual that keeps her happy.


Since everything that happens between me and Gladhys was started from Instagram, I asked Gladhys about what she thinks about Instagram society.

“I made my Instagram account before my departure to US. But I almost never used it. When I came back to Indonesia ̶ which was one and half year later ̶ I was surprised that everyone started to use Instagram. Since that day, I become an active user of Instagram again. Now, I even have two accounts. One for my personal life, and one for my drawings.”
“I only follow people who I want to follow. It’s like you curate the ones that will influence you the moment you open your Instagram feeds.”
I admit that this time I have to praise Instagram; for connecting me to so many amazing people such as Gladhys Elliona; The Real Art-Traveler. I believe that traveling far from her home won’t be any big deal to Gladhys. She’d really love to learn about so many new things; from many new inspiring people. Her spirit in chasing all of those experiences makes me question something to myself:
Have I been brave enough to follow my passion?